Black canes = bad. Brown canes = ?

mehearty(So ME z5a)April 7, 2009

It's not time to prune yet, but now that the snow melted after a good rain, I'm able to survey the damage. An early December ice storm had me worried since we didn't have snow cover yet. So far, it's not as bad as I feared.

Except for my Ramblin' Red. Its canes are brown all the way to the bottom where there's just a we bit if green. It's a nice sized climber for this area, so I hate to think I must cut it down to ground level. It's to early to cut and inspect the inside. Someone please tell me brown canes are not equal to black ones. If you tell me otherwise, I won't throw anything, but I'll make a really grumpy face.



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mike_rivers(z5 MI)

Brown canes =? pretty much tells the story. Brown canes could mean anything. Some of my tip-hardy roses maintain green canes throughout the winter, some have brown canes, and some even turn a dark red. I don't grow it, but I know that Ramblin Red has proven hardy to the tips for at least the last two winters in this area.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:39PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

Thank you Mike. It's good to see you again!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:12PM
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cherriej(z5 NEPA)


I grow Ramblin' Red in zone 5 too. Dark brown canes on this rose in the spring is normal. Do not cut them off! They will be your main flowering canes this year.

The only canes you should trim off this rose will be the ones that are all black or those which appear diseased. These black canes are usually the canes which developed later in the growing season and didn't have time to mature before the cold weather set in leaving them too tender to survive the cold.

I normally have 4-5 inches of tip damage which I trim off once the canes start to leaf out. If you aren't sure which canes to trim then just leave them alone until they leaf out and trim off anything that doesn't have new growth or has die back on it.

This is one of my favorite climbers. It blooms all summer long and has been disease free for me. I hope that you will enjoy yours too.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 10:51PM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

Yes, brown canes = ? My Brother Cadfael is usually hardy pretty high up, but all the canes on my 2 are pretty much brown all the way. Certain roses come out brown, certain roses green, on the hardy parts after winter. Too soon to tell til they really start budding.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 6:20AM
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serenasyh(was 5/now Z 8-Kans)

hi, mehearty, I hope this is not too obnoxious/rude to add my questions to your post. But I too have questions /concerns about the brown canes... I had one damaged tree rose branch that unlike the other black frost burn spots on my other tree rose branches had seemed to spread? rot? and wondered if you had this same problem? and wondered if cherriej and veilchen had any comments at this... There used to be a lot of green in the branch in spite of the damage, 2/3 green but the upper 1/3 black... I had hopes for it because of the green but then one day, much too my horror it had spread down to 1/3 black and 1/3 a yucky brown with only a bare 1/3 green left...the brown was so close to a new emerging bud that I panicked and cut it off...The part still remaining was very healthy white and green outer shell, but I made one cut then took it away and made several (investigative) cross-section "autopsies" of the removed branch. The upper black was black on outside but ash-white on inside, but the brown areas were yucky brown on outside with slight juice but yucky sallow center on the inside... Did I cut out a diseased stem...or did I jump the gun too soon. Was your brown like mine in terms of spreading downward? Thanks and much apologies if I'm being rude... I'm a total beginner gardener (never grew anything in my life except for a beautiful orchid)...and in March bought two tree roses that got snowballed and iced (poor tree roses).

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 12:56PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

serenasyh, a healthy rose cane in cross section will have layers:

--the outside, which may be green, red, brown, even grey,

--a thin green layer inside that, which may be very thin indeed,

--and a white or tan, but always firm center.


Dead. Note lack of green ring just inside the exterior

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 2:08PM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)

The black spreading downward is probably botrytis canker or cane blight. It usually starts on dead bark or a cut but can spread into healthy bark. However, in my experience, it doesn't spread unchecked except when the plant is dormant and perhaps not able to defend the healthy bark. When I have topped roses in the fall, I have seen it spread downward from the pruning cuts over the winter. In your case, the black section might have been dead before the botrytis colonized it.

If the brown cane section had tan center pith, it was correct to prune it out. Such wood will usually sprout but not support the strongest growth. However, you should work downward. Cut below the black, sterilize pruners with Lysol, then work downward until you find white pith.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 2:11PM
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serenasyh(was 5/now Z 8-Kans)

Thanks sooooo much Michael and Hoovb! Thank goodness I trusted my instinct instead of waiting for the buds to leaf... I do think it was an invasive "blight" after reading both of your explanations. I actually cut right where there was green because I was afraid of the spreading very unhealthy looking brown. So what remained was a very nice white center "iris" surrounded by healthier green... It was my "autopsy" of the unhealthy cut branch that I noticed that the center was brown and more "oozy" icky looking... The rest of my black freezer burns on my tree roses are not dull brown at all but bone ash white... whereas the unhealthy branch's cross sections were a paler brown version of what hoovb very thoughtfully sent... except with ooze. Phew, that was a very close call... I just had barely 2 inches more then the canker would have hit my healthy bud on that stem...Yick. I also researched the botrytis canker link on google after you wrote about it, Michael, it also mentioned about frost canker and splits caused by trees that have just broken out of dormancy before being hit by freezing weather, which my poor rose trees underwent. But ewww, I definitely will be sterilizying my pruners... Thanks so much guys, and to you mehearty for letting me add my question about brown canes...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 4:49PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

Thanks everyone! I love this RR, and yes it's been very disease resistant and very cane hardy. The JBs love it though, so after July, I don't get to see many blooms open.

I couldn't remember what color the canes have been in the past, but that's the one rose that I barely clip in the spring. Last spring, I just deadheaded the spent autumn blooms. I just dreaded thinking what that ice storm was doing to the roses last December. Some fared better than others.

How about others in the NorthEast? Veilchen?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 3:30PM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

I did prune my client's HTs yesterday as she is in a warmer microclimate than I, and they all seemed to live without protection this year (although most are cut pretty close to ground level). I inspected some of my roses yesterday and in my yard it's still too early to prune, as I am looking at some wood that is hard to tell whether dead or alive, need to give it a few more days to see if buds appear.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 6:01AM
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jbcarr(7 VA)

Can the creeping black cane death also come from cold damage? I lost some roses this winter, and found even with trimming (with sterilized clippers) that the black just kept creeping to the center of the plant until the whole thing was dead. Never saw any kind of fungal type growth. If it is the botrysis, is there a treatment?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 6:28AM
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michaelg(7a NC Mts)


No doubt there are different forms of dieback, and the whole thing isn't well understood.

If botrytis is creeping into live tissue, there will normally be a reddish band in advance of the black. Sometimes you see a few grayish fibers projecting. (This is the same fungus that is called gray mold on grapes and tomatoes, but it doesn't look like that on roses.)

Winter damage often precedes it. Botrytis prefers to attack rose petals and dead or dying bark tissue. It often invades fresh pruning cuts. I see it on pruning stubs but it stops where the rose is actively growing. Possibly the trimming you did on dormant canes actually encouraged the disease by providing fresh entry. The spores are all over the place during cool, humid weather.

Often my Irish Hope is black to the ground in spring. I am unable to sort out the responsibility of winter damage vs. the fungus possibly invading healthy tissue. I just whack it down and the rose bounces back.

I try to avoid pruning during winter. Pruned cane ends could be sprayed with chlorothalonil (Daconil)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 10:34AM
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jbcarr(7 VA)

That helps, thanks.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 5:32PM
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